From Karl Marx to Marxism: Class struggle, two-line struggle and mass line (Part V)

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The Editor’s Note: We publish now the fifth part of the document: “From Karl Marx to Marxism”, from the Nucleus for Studies of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. In this edition the authors focus on the important two-line struggle against Bakunin’s petty-bourgeois concepts during the immortal Commune of Paris, a milestone of the world workers’ struggle, that has also empowered the understanding of the need of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat so that the class could reach its goal, the communism.

Marx sendo reprimido por policiais renanos após publicar artigos críticos ao governo da Prússia, 1842

The Commune of Paris and the London Conference: the two line struggle against anarchism and reformism

Among the First International meetings, some will have more importance since they have been the ones in which a more concentrated form of Two Line Struggle, the most important of the organization, was waged. At every event of the International, strengthened by the impact of the publication of The Capital and by the development of the class struggle in Europe, little by little Marxism was imposing itself as the only true proletarian ideology, since scientific, and the First International itself was advancing on its ideological quality.

At he Brussels Congress, in 1868, for the first time in the history of the First International,  the slogan of the “collection ownership of the means of production” is included in the programme. This decision will determine the take over of a socialist programme for the First International. Bakunin will join, in the following year, the organization which represented the Suiss Section. After Proudhon’s and Lassalle’s deaths, Bakunin became the main representative of the petty-bourgeois socialism in Europe; his admission in the First International will demand from the marxist Red Fraction the reinforcement of the two-line struggle that became decisive for the development of the proletarian ideology. In 1870, Bakunin was defeated by the Russian revolutionaries at the Suiss Section of the First International and, in 1872, he would be expelled from the organization by the Hague Congress.

Anarchism, developed in a more complete and decaying manner by Bakunin, represented the eclectic mix of elements from proudhonism, lassalism, the bourgeois positions of the blanquist type, aspects from the English reformism and the Russian populism. Bakunin’s  non-scientific and petty-bourgeois ideology embodied from proudhonism the defence of the private ownership form of the urban petty-bourgeoisie; lassalianism and its aversion to the salary fighting of the industrial proletariat; the English reformism its repulse to the Irish national struggle; the blanquism phraseology of the independent revolutionary action on the mass participation and, from the Russian populism, the nihilism and the extreme individualism. Anarchism represented, therefore, the more developed petty-bourgeois opportunist line, against which Marxism has waged the most important two-line struggle on its conformation processing as the scientific and universal ideology of proletariat.

The struggle against Bakunin’s stances were just starting within the First International when, on March, 1871, the Commune of Paris exploded, the first power-grab experience  by the proletariat and the first experience of the dicatatorship of proletariat. Among the political forces of the First International, the ones that had greater leverage in the Commune leadership, were the blanquists and the proudhonists. Marxists’s contribution, among the communards leadership was minority yet extremely active. Despite that the Marxists fought with tremendous heroism in the battles of Paris and Karl Marx played a decisive role in the political and ideological defense of the French revolutionary process. The Social-democratic Working Party of Germany has proven its internationalism publicly defending the historical importance of the Commune. After its defeat, the General Council of the First International organized in a determined way the political and material solidarity to the French refugees.

The experience of the Commune of Paris, the reasons for its defeat, has fully proved the impossibility of the petty-bourgeois socialism, mostly anarchism, to lead the proletarian revolution to victory. The positive and negative points of the Commune, as never before, have served as a lesson to the proletariat on the need of a proletarian party, its revolutionary army and the single front for conquering and defense of power, the exercise of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The concrete experience of the Commune has shown how empty was the anarchist proposition for the destruction of the bourgeois State without its immediate substitution by a proletarian State, that is, by its revolutionary dictatorship as the only condition for eliminating the social classes and to extinguish the State. The Commune experience has demonstrated that only armed with its own State, the proletariat could expropriate the bourgoisie of the means of production, concentrating them in its own hands.

This is the balance Marx presents in Message, passed by the General Council of the International, on June, 1871. The impact of this Message all over Europe and also in America was enormous. Besides an assessment of the Commune, the Message from the General Council, as The Manifest, constituted for the First International the spread of a complete and developed communist program that, besides proposing the need of the dictatorship of the proletariat, balanced of its firs historical experience and, foreseeing the future times, proclaimed in a prophetic way that: The Commune is immortal! The Message of the General Council had an immediate spread; only in England there were three editions in 1871 and its translation to other languages happened in the same year since it was urgent to the proletariat to experience the scientific balance of the first victorious revolution.

On September, 1871, it was held the historic London Conference of the First International. This Conference represents the most important ideological milestone of the left-wing in the growing ICM (International Communist Movement) since the most advanced sectors of the movement were gathered and approved the Message of the General Council.  Thus, the First International took over officially the communist program and, at the same time, put itself the need to constitute, therefore, in a new kind of organization. That is what clearly indicates Engels in his letter to Kugelman when asserts that the main task of the conference was “to undertake a new organization that corresponds to the requirements of the situation”. In other words, the Commune of Paris formulated to the ICM that the most important task at that very moment was the building of Marxist Parties in every country. The First International had fulfilled its historic mission and new forms of organization were necessary as the only way to push forward the revolucionary process and the development of the ideology of the proletariat.

Marx’s speech by the closure of the London Conference has a great depth and points out for the need to build what the three instruments of the revolution outlined:

“But, before such a transformation can occur, it will be necessary a dicatatorship of the proletariat and its first assumption will be an army of the proletariat. The toiling masses have to fight for the right to their emancipation in the battle field. The International task is to organize and unite the workers’ forces for the fight that is approaching”. ( Marx’x speech due to the celebration of the 7th anniversary of the First International, on September 25th , 1871).

Marxism establishes itself as  the only scientific ideology of the proletariat: the beginning of a new stage in the International Communist Movement.

Karl Marx em seu ambiente de estudo, onde pôde extrair as leis da luta do proletariado e dar-lhe uma concepção científica

After London Conference, it was up to the left-wing the thorough defeat of the anarchist stances in the Hague Congress. All charges from the few anarchist delegates against the General Council were dismissed and the Congress decided by the strengthening of the powers of its leadership and for Bakunin’s expulsion and his representative, Guillaume, from the ranks of the First International. With the scientific force of The Capital, with the heroism of the Commune of Paris and the balance of the Message to the General Council,  Marxism has conformed itself as the only scientific ideology of the proletariat, the only scientific theory of Communism. The Hague Congress determines this victory and Bakunin’s absence who escaped from the clear two-line struggle, preferring to weave intrigues allied now with the Englisn reformists, expressing the complete defeat of anarchism and the petty-bourgeois socialism in a new form of revisionism before Marxism. From this period on, the bourgeois ideology in the ranks of the working movement could only confront the proletarian ideology under the appearance of “marxist”, in a new form, the revisionsim. The systematization and the complement of the Marxism development will happen, from then on and principally, in the two-line struggle against revisionsim, in a period in which the class followed, according toLenin, a “relatively peaceful development” to be concluded with the first Russian revolution, in 1905. Those contigencies are the ones we will try to analyze in parts VI and VII in this article.


We have tried to analize the emergence and development of the scientific ideology of proletariat, Marxism, from the advance of the class struggle of the European proletariat, between the years of 1830 and 1871; the two-line struggle between the vanguard organizations of the working class, of how the left-wing, a Red Fraction, has conformed in those organizations from which a proletarian and scientific thought has developed and that represented the support of a well-known chefatura; of how that Red Fraction, handling the mass line as a correct mean for the vanguard intervention in the class struggle was able, through the concrete experience of the proletarian revolutionary struggle, enrich and supplement the same ideology. In view of what was exposed by Comrade Lenin and Chairman Gonzalo that Marxism has been conformed by three constitutive parts, we have also tried to analyse the development of the scientific ideology of the proletariat into its constituent parts: the marxist philosophy, the marxist political economy and the scientific socialism. And thus we will present the following overview:

Marx thought is forged amidst the unprecedented worsening of the antagonism between proletariat and bourgeoisie, expressed on the 1848 survey, but above all on the working insurrection in June, the same year, in Paris. The two-line struggle, more important for the conformation of marx-thought, occurs against Proudhon’s petty-bourgeois socialism. The Red Fraction, led by Marx, defeated the proudhonist right-wing line at the II Congress of the League of the Justes, transformed into the League of the Communists, adopting the motto: Proletarians of all countries, unite! As to the mass line, Marx handled it in a bright manner from the working insurrection assessment in Paris, 1848, presented in the document Class struggle in France, and formulated the concept of dictatorship of the proletariat. The main oeuvres of marx-thought are: the Misery of Philosophy, 1847, where in the first chapter he deals with the political economy and, in the second, the philosophy; the Communist Manifest, 1848, that represents a comprehensive formulation of the scientific socialism. Marx-thought, on its three contituent parts, gave support to the condition of  Karl Marx ‘s chefatura of the emerging International Communist Movement. 

Marxism is forged amidst a new rising of the working movement in Europe, as well as the intensification of the national liberation struggles of the Irish and Polish people. Such a rising found its peak in the immortal Commune of Paris, 1871. It was amidst such a picture of class struggle that was founded, in 1864, the First International, and Marx elected for its General Council. The Permanent Committee for the General Council constituted itself as a Red Fraction of the First International, Marx its chefatura. The most important two line struggle on the conformation of Marxism occurs against Bakunin’s anarchism that, as it has already been said, blent the worse aspects of Proudhon’s and Lassalle’s right-wing lines, the English reformists’, Russian populists’ and the bourgeois stances’ in the working movement. Marxism has also enriched itself with the keen assessment proposed by Marx on the Commune of Paris, handling once more the mass line. From this experience Marx finds out the political form of the dictatorship of proletariat, the centralized working government as a condition for its economical emancipation. The main oeuvres that make marx-thought the Marxism are: The Capital, Book I, in which are fully developed the marxist philosophy and the marxist political economy; and the Message to the General Council on the Commune which represents a leap in the formulation of the scientific socialism, from the historical assessment of the first experience of the dicatatorship of the proletariat on. Marxism, fully developed on its three constituent parts, has imposed itself, thereupon, as the only scientific theory of Communism.

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